When I first started pole dancing, we had a saying at the studio, “the floor is lava!”. The pole was our safe place, our rock that allowed everyone to spin around like superstars. The floor was a hard place (especially on the knees!) that revealed our lack of dance backgrounds and coordination.
Over the last few years, however, there has been a resurgence in floorwork. Pole dancers now don knee pads and leggings, and admit to even neglecting their pole tricks for the allure of “rolling around on the floor”. Floorplay is open for auditions once again and studios run classes exclusively for floorwork. Competition pros even have their own take on Basework and Low Flow.
Floorwork does not have to be defined by sultry and sexy moves. You can make it gymnastic, acrobatic, contemporary, or add a break dance feel depending on your influence. In fact, your floorwork may even impact the overall style of your routine, dictating the flow of your pole tricks and your expression.
I was recently asked about my choreography process, in particular which comes first, pole or floor? Most of my initial inspiration comes from visualisation and as much as I see myself doing pole combos to various parts of the song, I also picture a pose or grounded movement. It’s a starting place for a floorwork sequence that is not necessarily how I will begin the routine, but may become a motive or shape that I revisit throughout.
I like the idea that floor based tricks can add a new layer to a performance. Jazz and contemporary dance talk a lot about levels for pathways of movement. You can try this exercise in your lounge room or studio:
Put on a song and set yourself a limitation. Consider moving from A to B (or pole to pole) by only crawling or rolling on the floor. No kneeling, no standing. Take as long as you need to, the whole song if you wish. Tune in to what comes naturally and places you get stuck.
Try a second and third time with new limitations. Rising only as high as your knees, or moving across the floor from a standing position. Set a rule that you much have one hand touching one foot at all times. Try it with both hands touching each other at all times.
The character of your performance and your intention will define how well each of these suggestions connect to the rest of your choreography. But they are worth exploring though freestyle or as a specific exercise, you’ll be surprised how creative you can be!
It has taken a long time to grow accustom to the carpet burns and bruised knees that come part and parcel with floorwork. However, I am working at making it a more important part of my repertoire. Acknowledging it as a space to incorporate different dance styles and offer even more scope for expression, time spent “rolling around on the floor” can lead to finding the essence of the dance, just as much as a pole freestyle.
But if the floor is still a scary, untouchable place for you take ispiration from Yvonne Smink, who choreographed an entire routine without touching the floor until her final dismount!